UAE rugby community mourns the tragic passing of RAK Rugby player Nick Young

Alex Broun 30/04/2018
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The UAE rugby community is in mourning after the tragic passing of RAK Rugby player Nick Young.

“It is with profound sadness and regret we announce that RAK Rugby player Nick Young passed away today (Sunday) at 2.45pm local time,”  confirmed RAK in a statement, “following treatment from a serious head injury incurred whilst playing at the Sharjah 10s Rugby tournament on Friday 27th April.”

Young was left in a very serious condition following a tackle at the season-ending tournament, with the famous competition abandoned after the RAK vets player was taken to hospital after suffering an in-game injury.

Nick Young of RAK Rugby has tragically passed away.

Nick Young of RAK Rugby has tragically passed away.

Young, believed to be in his 40s, reportedly had to be resuscitated on the pitch at Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club.

Louise Palmer, chairperson of Arabian Knights Rugby, wrote in a Facebook message after the announcement: “It is with utter disbelief and sadness that we learn of Nick’s passing yesterday.

“Arabian Knights RFC extend our heartfelt condolences to chairman Simon Williams, team manager David Learman, coach Craig Chapman, the RAK Rugby players and Nick’s family following this tragedy.”

RAK Rugby has been overwhelmed by support since news of Young’s injury.

“The club would like to thank everyone for the astonishing support we have received from the rugby family and beyond since we announced his injury,” the statement continued.

“For now there will be no further communication as we give his close ones and our members time to deal with this tradegy. The club is currently offering support to Nick’s family, friends and colleagues.

“We therefore ask that everyone please respect their privacy, as well as our own, as we mourn his loss.”

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Ross Samson excited to cap successful club season at Jebel Ali Dragons with UAE debut

Matt Jones 25/04/2018
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Ross Samson says his UAE debut is the perfect way to top off a successful and enjoyable season at club level with Jebel Ali Dragons.

The Scotsman has been selected in Apollo Perelini’s squad as the traditional end of season international calendar takes a twist with the UAE opting not to travel to the Philippines to take part in Division I of the Asia Rugby Championship.

Samson, 30, has played international rugby for his homeland in the sevens format and played professionally for Edinburgh and London Irish in his youth, and now qualifies for the UAE via the three-year residency rule.

He is in the squad to play an uncapped international against Gibraltar on Friday. And even though it is an unofficial Test for a talented squad assembled by Perelini, Samson is still buoyed to be on the cusp of a debut for his adopted nation.

“From a personal point of view, I’m delighted to be in the squad. Although I don’t think it’s counted as an official cap, it’s still a huge honour to be selected and it’s a nice way to finish off what’s been a really enjoyable season,” said the Dragons’ scrum-half.

It’s been an cracking season for Samson at Dragons, with the club winning the West Asia Premiership after a feverous pursuit between them and rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Dubai Exiles and Bahrain.

It was a first trophy for Dragons in four years and Samson is now looking forward to working with players he is trained to dislike for the most part.

“It’s a great opportunity to play alongside all the guys that we are trying to smash week in, week out,” he added.

“Saturday was a good session, it was more about getting to know each other and the detail and structure the coaching team want to play.

“There’s a lot of quality in the squad and it’s exciting to get the chance to put in a good performance against Gibraltar, throw the ball around and play some nice rugby.”

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No cap on offer but UAE debut is still an honour for Abu Dhabi Harlequins' Craig Nutt

Matt Jones 25/04/2018
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Luke Stevenson will be one of seven Quins players in the UAE squad for Friday's game.

The country’s non-participation in the Asia Rugby Championship this year may have put a dampener on the end of the rugby season for many players, but Craig Nutt will still be honoured to pull on the green, white, red and black of the UAE on Friday.

UAE Rugby chiefs announced in March that the nation would not be participating at this year’s Division I ARC, set to take place in the Philippines in June, meaning they would not be competing in the end of season internationals for the first time as a standalone nation since the 2011 Asian Five Nations.

UAE players had competed internationally prior to that against other Asian countries as part of the Arabian Gulf team since the 2008 Asian Five Nations – but this year marks a break of not competing for the first time in a decade, and for as yet unexplained reasons.

The UAE will instead play a one-off fixture against Gibraltar in Dubai on Friday. And despite the fact he will not earn an official cap for featuring, Abu Dhabi Harlequins prop Nutt cannot wait to make his debut for his adopted nation.

“I’ve said all along it was in my sights, it was my target to get a UAE cap,” said Nutt, who arrived in the Emirates in the summer of 2014, winning the West Asia Championship with former club Abu Dhabi Saracens in his debut campaign.

“Obviously this isn’t a capped game but it will hopefully put me in good stead for next year when the caps are available.

“It has been a bit thrown together at the last minute, they told us about a week ago the game was going on and asked us to go training. I’m more than happy to go along.”

Craig Nutt (l) is relishing his UAE debut.

Craig Nutt (l) is relishing his UAE debut.

The shock news not to take a team to Manila brought an abrupt end to several years of impressive progress under the tutelage of Apollo Perelini and Roelof Kotze before him.

The UAE were set for another crack at Division I this year after finishing bottom last year following spirited defeats to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – but they were spared relegation, whetting the appetite for another promotion push for the ARC.

It was a far cry from losing a relegation play-off to Singapore in April 2014 that saw the UAE drop down to Asia’s third tier. They almost bounced back at the first attempt in 2015 before trouncing Uzbekistan and Thailand in 2016 to earn promotion to Division I – there were even faint hopes a year ago that the UAE could qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Now, the future of the country is up in the air again with the decision not to travel east leaving everyone in limbo.

But with a view to hopefully earning a maiden cap next year, Nutt insists he and the rest of this year’s talented squad are going to enjoy Friday’s game.

“I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be an honour to play for the UAE,” said the 33-year-old Welshman.

“Training was really good (on Saturday). There’s a good calibre of player there so it was fun. The mood in the camp is good and it’s always good fun meeting up with boys you usually play against every week and seeing how they play and how we gel.”

The UAE take on Gibraltar at Dubai Sports City on Friday evening, which will bring a brief but busy tour for the visitors to an end following four fixtures in the space of five days.

Gibraltar lost 33-19 to Dubai Exiles on Monday night and then beat a Dubai Eagles Select XV 20-5 on Tuesday night. They play the UAE Barbarians on Thursday before the final fixture with the UAE.

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